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Does eating nuts make you fat?

Nuts are healthy. They’re the perfect nutrient-rich snack and oh so tasty. So when it comes to eating a healthy diet, why are so many people guilty of ignoring nuts? It all comes down to the big fat myth.

The myth that eating nuts can make you fat is a hangover from the low-fat diet obsessions of the 80s. It all began because nuts are a rich source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but we now know these healthy fats can actually help to keep the kilos at bay.

Eating nuts has actually been shown to help suppress hunger and regulate appetite. They’re also a source of fibre, which helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

In fact, a large number of studies show that people who include a handful of nuts in their diet actually weigh less. So consider the myth busted!

Here’s five more ways nuts help to keep you lean:

  1. Crunching on nuts sends signals to your brain1 — the more you crunch, the less you eat
  2. They’re high in protein and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer and help control your appetite2,3,4
  3. Not all the fat from nuts is absorbed by the body3,5,6
  4. They boost metabolism by 5-10%5
  5. Nuts are yummy, making it easier to stick to a diet that includes snacking on nuts7,8

As well as helping to manage your weight, regularly eating nuts has been associated with looking after your heart, living longer and they are great brain food too.

While nuts are a great, nutritious snack, it doesn’t give us free reign to guzzle back kilos at a time. Nuts contain loads of good nutrients and they are also energy dense, so like all good things in life — moderation is key. A handful or 40g of nuts is the perfect portion size to get all the benefits from these nutrition powerhouses! To get the best health benefits snack on raw and dry roasted nuts — leave the chocolate coated ones for treats.

So how many nuts are in a handful?

It varies for each variety but as a guide:
  • 20 almonds
  • 10 Brazil nuts
  • 15 cashews
  • 4 chestnuts
  • 20 hazelnuts
  • 15 macadamias
  • 15 pecans
  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 30 pistachio kernels
  • 10 walnut halves
  • a handful of mixed nuts
  1. Tan ST et al. A review of the effects of nuts on appetite, food intake, metabolism and body weight. AJCN 2014;100 Suppl 1: 412s-422s.
  2. Pasman WJ et al. The effect of Korean pine nut oil on in vitro CCK release, on appetite sensations and on gut hormones in post-menopausal overweight women. Lipids Health Dis. 2008:20; 7:10.
  3. Cassady BA et al. Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89(3):794-800. 
  4. Noakes M. The role of protein in weight management. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 Suppl 1:169-171.
  5. Mattes R. The energetics of nut consumption. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008; 17(S1):337-9.
  6. Ellis PR et al. Role of cell walls in the bioaccessibility of lipids in almond seeds. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:604-13.
  7. Bes-Rastrollo M et al. Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89 1913-1919.
  8. Martínez-González MA et al. Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;21 Suppl 1:S40-5.